The Columbus Blue Jackets needed a game-breaker.
Their stunning turnaround during the 2016-17 season was made possible by a Vezina Trophy performance from goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, a couple of young stars on defense (Zach Werenski and Seth Jones), and a deep group of forwards. While that group of forwards did not really contain any real weakness and consisted of four lines that could all contribute, they lacked that one player that could take over a game at any moment and be a go-to force for the offense.
Panarin has already made a pretty big impact in a couple of games this season, including their season-opening win against the New York Islanders where he recorded three assists.
On Friday night against the New York Rangers he contributed to the goal scoring for the first time with an absolutely beautiful play in the third period to break a 1-1 tie.
Watch as he dances through the Rangers’ defense to score his first goal as a member of the Blue Jackets, scoring what would be the eventual game-winning goal.
That is a beauty.
The biggest question regarding Panarin is how he would produce away from Patrick Kane. With four points in his first four games with the Blue Jackets, and single-handedly impacting two of those games and helping lead his new team to wins, he is off to a pretty good start.
Panarin has been one of the top-10 point producers in the league since entering the NHL at the start of the 2015-16 season. If he can maintain that pace with the Blue Jackets they could be a fierce team to have to face in the playoffs.